A. E. Housman, was an English classical scholar and poet, best known to the general
public for his cycle of poems Housman was counted one of the foremost classicists of his
age, and has been ranked as one of the greatest scholars of all time He established his
reputation publishing as a private scholar and, on the strength and quality of his work,
was appointed Professor of Latin at University College London and later, at Cambridge.
To An Athlete Dying young is one of the most well-known
poems pertaining to early death. Published in the period
between the two Boer Wars, the poem gained even more
popularity during World War I, as many saw it as a poignant
lament for the lost generation of so many bright, young
men, cut down in their prime. In this poem Housman used
many different literary devices such as, rhyme, imagery,
and mood. Being that he used these devices it help the
readers create the setting and image of the poem in their
After analyzing the poem, readers can assume that the main
theme of the poem is glory does not last long. Readers can
assume this because throughout the poem Housman
mentions an athlete should not brag about their
accomplishments. They should not brag about their
accomplishment because there is always another athlete
trying to beat their accomplishment.
The first tone in the poem is dull. This is the first tone because in
the athlete has died young. Second tone in the poem is
satisfaction. There is a sense of satisfaction because the
athlete has accomplished a certain goal he or she
wanted. Also since the athlete has died young, they will
always be remembered for accomplishing this goal.
“To an Athlete Dying Young” is definitely a thoughtprovoking poem that allows the readers to think
about the meaning of life and death. Housman
achieves this by using form and rhyme scheme,
sound, and figurative languages such as metaphors
and similes. The poem has seven stanzas and each
stanza consists of two pairs of end-rhyming lines. This
form is known as a couplet, an alternating rhyme
scheme ABAB. For example, “race” and “place”
rhyme in first two lines and “by” and “high” rhyme in
last two lines of the first stanza. The couplet theme
used throughout the poem adds rhythm as well as a
sense of repetition, which not only keeps the poem
interesting to read, but also reinforces the idea of
When I fist began reading this
poem my first thought was
that It was about an athlete
who may was great at a
certain sport an event may
occurred in his/her life and
instead of actually “dying” but
he/she may have just lost the
fire or ambition towards that
certain sport.
After really reading this poem and
analyzing it I realized that my
personal interpretation was
completely wrong. The poem
is about an athlete who dies
young. The athlete
accomplishes a goal then is
told not to brag about
accomplishing it. He or she is
told not to brag because glory
fades because other athletes
are always accomplishing
greater goals.
In conclusion this
poem is one that
makes the reader
realize just how
short life is and
how important it is
to live life to its
fullest. The tone of
the poem is
melancholy in the
fact that it was
written to mourn
the loss of a great
athlete, but it is
also happy in the
sense that it is
meant to
celebrate the life
of the athlete
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